Perempuan Tanah Jahanam
Indonesia, 2019, 108’, Indonesian, Javanese
Directed by: Joko Anwar
Script: Joko Anwar
Photography (color): Ical Tanjung
Editing: Dinda Amanda
Production Design: Frans Xr Paat
Music: Aghi Narottama, Bembi Gusti, Tony Merle.
Producers: Shanty Harmayn, Tia Habisuan, Aoura Lovneson Chandra, Ben Soebiakto.
Cast: Tara Basro (Maya), Ario Bayu (Ki Saptadi), Marissa Anita (Dini), Christine Hakim (Nyi Misni), Asmara Abigail (Ratih), Kiki Narendra (Bambang), Zidni Hakim (Ki Donowongso), Faradina Mufti (Nyai Shinta)
Date of First Release in Territory: October 17th, 2019
Premiere status: Italian Premiere
Impetigore (or in Indonesian Perempuan Tanah Jahanam, or “The Girl from Hell”) is the second of two films Joko Anwar made in 2019. It’s his return to horror after the rip-roaring success of Satan’s Slaves, but it also marks his return to an entirely original story, after working on the remake of a classic 1980s film with the aforementioned Satan’s Slaves and the film adaptation of comic book characters with Gundala.
The story opens on a dark night at a highway tollbooth where Maya and her friend Dini work, in separate cabins next to one another. Maya fears the umpteenth passage of an unsettling motorist who seems to have been stalking her for a few nights. As expected, the man returns. Without providing too many spoilers, it will be the words of this menacing stranger that will lead Maya on a journey through the recollection of her origins and her parents who she cannot remember: “We don’t want what your family has left behind. Please take it away.” Along with the sarcastic Dini, who she runs a clothing stand with in a local market – one that makes little or no money – Maya then sets off for the remote village of Harjosari, a bastion of ancient Javanese traditions, from wayang kulit, the shadow theatre with puppets made of leather, to shamanic practices of black magic. A journey that leads Maya to discover her identity as Rahayu (her real name) and the curse that her father Ki Donowongso has inflicted on her community.
With this story full of both cinephile and folklore influences, Joko Anwar has perhaps written his most mature screenplay and film. Starting from a prologue where he cleverly interweaves the elements of tension and terror into his colourful and ironic dialogue, Anwar saturates his picture with macabre anxiety. The pitch-blackness of tropical nights and the palpable humidity of the Javanese forest are the perfect backdrop for the appearance of restless spirits and the performance of bloody rituals. The fascination of Impetigore does not lie in the construction of twists and turns, but is amplified throughout this powerful tale about transcendence and betrayed parenthood – should the faults (or curses) of fathers and mothers fall on their children?
Working with a technical-artistic team of well-established collaborators, both in front of and behind the camera, from performers Tara Basro, Aryo Bayu and Marissa Anita (to whom we can add Christine Hakim, a renowned icon of Indonesian cinema), to cinematographer Ical Tanjung, from editor Dinda Amanda to musicians Aghi Narottama, Bembi Gusti and Tony Merle, Joko Anwar creates a work of impeccable consistency and atmosphere, beautifully orchestrated in the harmonisation of images, sounds and acting. A successful amalgam that will seduce audiences beyond Indonesian confines, where surprisingly, Impetigore outperformed Gundala, the long-awaited and ambitious superhero movie that Anwar completed and brought to theatres just one and a half months earlier. A result that confirms Joko Anwar’s constant artistic growth and the appeal of his work to local audiences – and which puts us on the edges of our seats while awaiting future offerings.
Joko Anwar is one of the most acclaimed contemporary Indonesian directors. Selected several times at the FEFF and author of FEFF 12, Anwar made his feature film debut in 2005 with Joni’s Promise and in 2017 he signed the biggest Indonesian horror hit of recent years, Satan’s Slaves. In 2019 he completed two successful feature films, Gundala and Impetigore.
2005 – Joni’s Promise
2007 – Kala
2009 – The Forbidden Door
2012 – Modus Anomali
2015 – A Copy of My Mind
2017 –Satan’s Slaves
2019 – Gundala
2019 – Impetigore